Residency Requirement Ordinance Looms over 2021 [OPINION]
A new residency requirement for the city employees drafted by the New Bedford City Council and vetoed by Mayor Jon Mitchell will be an election issue next year.
There has been a residency requirement for some New Bedford municipal employees since the 1970s. Over the years, there have been changes for certain employee groups. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts forbids public school teachers from residency requirements enacted by the local governments.
The New Bedford police and fire unions have negotiated exemptions for their members over the years. The latest negotiations between Mayor Mitchell and those unions have tilted towards the need to live in the city and all new hires must live for 10 years in the city from the start.
It is clear from the ordinance passed by the city council and the actions of Mayor Mitchell that there is a common belief that hiring employees who live in the city and having city employees live in the city is important.
But the devil is in the details.
The only city councilor who voted against the new residency requirement is retiring from the council. The candidates running for the open seat on the council will be required to articulate their position on the requirement that some city employees live in the city.
The vote on overriding the veto of Mayor Jon Mitchell will happen at the start of the new year. It appears at this moment the votes are in hand to override the veto and make the ordinance the law for hiring.
Mayor Mitchell has pointed out that he believes the new ordinance will impact the city's ability to hire the public health experts the city requires. The city council is willing to hire people who don't live or move to the city, but they will deduct 10 percent of the base pay from those particular employees.
The election season has started and it won't be without important issues.
Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.